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Opinion, commentary and analysis on everything that makes the U.S. housing economy tick -- not to mention the ghosts in the machine, too. Written by HW's team of editors and reporters each business day.
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HousingWire’s most viewed stories of 2013

Forget compliance: Readers followed REITs, tax breaks on loan mods more closely

December 23, 2013

The year 2013 is coming to a close with the mortgage industry entering into an era of unprecedented change.

In January 2014, compliance officers, lenders and servicers will come up against a series of new mortgage rules – most of which were drafted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Yet, while compliance and mortgage regulations dominated the headlines this past year, a closer look at HousingWire web traffic shows that readers in 2013 took the greatest interest – not in regulations – but in the experiences of Real Estate Investment Trusts and homeowners looking for tax breaks after loan mods.

When delving into the page views of HousingWire stories published online from Jan. 1, 2013 through Dec. 23, 2013, the most viewed is an article titled "REITs earn spotlight in the new year."

Yes, those real estate investment trusts had a doozy of a year.

Early on, HousingWire reported that REITs continued to attract institutional investors. Then by mid-year, REITs trading on Wall Street rolled a bit when the Fed spooked the market, suggesting a taper of mortgage-backed securities could come as early as September.

Obviously, that never happened. The Fed didn’t announce tapering until this month -- with it expected to begin in January. But REITs definitely had a wild ride in 2013, which means the crystal ball forecast published a year ago turned out to be correct.

What else captured readers' interest?

Back in January, we reported that a final fiscal cliff deal brought back a popular tax break on mortgage insurance premiums and debt forgiveness for borrowers who go through short-sales or some other type of debt reduction. The story topped our list of top pages by page views.

The story cleared up some of the uncertainty for distressed borrowers, but as it turns out, they are heading into 2014 with even more uncertainty. As reported last week, Congress has yet to extend a measure that provides tax exemptions for borrowers who see large portions of their mortgage debt written off by modifications of some kind.

I guess readers can hope for another New Year’s surprise. It’s definitely not too late for Congress to get a deal done in the first month of 2014.  

The next most viewed article by page-view count was a piece titled, "Buy a home before 2014." The premise: real estate analysts say reluctant homeowners should enjoy today’s interest rates and less regulated environment because 2014 is going to bring a new decade in lending and underwriting. In other words buy now, not later. But as of today, it's probably too late to heed this advice.

The next most read story was the FHA increasing the annual mortgage insurance premium for most new mortgages by 10 basis points. As HousingWire reported back in January, premiums on jumbo mortgages — $625,000 or larger — also increased by 5 basis points, or 0.5%.

And finally, one of the stories that caught readers by surprise in 2013 was the FHA’s announcement that homeowners with FHA loans will eventually be unable to qualify for the $729,750 high-cost area loan limit.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development said it was implementing a rule passed a few years back that moves the agency's standard loan limit for high-cost areas down to $625,500 for all FHA loans.

So what will be the big stories of 2014? With the new QM rule and mortgage regulations hitting in January, it’s possible all of these changes could lead to most-read HousingWire coverage.

But looking back over the past 12 months – the year the QM definition was officially announced – proves that even if regs are a big topic, they failed to dominate the readers viewing habits in 2013.

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